House of Commons Hansard #272 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.


The House resumed from November 30, 2017 consideration of the motion that Bill C-373, an act respecting a federal framework on distracted driving, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to speak to an issue I care deeply about. It is great to have the privilege to speak to Bill C-373 in this place today. It is our job to work hard to make Canada a better and safer place to live. We hear all too often about the tragedies that occur because of distracted and impaired driving.

This is a debate that is important to each and every Canadian. No riding is immune to the devastation caused by distracted and impaired driving. We know that distracted driving occurs frequently in Canada.

Bill C-373 focuses on hand-held electronic devices, such as cellphones, which is an important issue. However, it is not comprehensive of all factors that go into distracted driving.

Distracted driving is not just an issue of texting behind the wheel; it is much more than that. The RCMP define distracted driving as a form of impaired driving as a driver's judgment is compromised when the driver is not fully focused on the road. This includes talking on a cellphone, texting, and reading, whether that be books, maps, or newspapers. Distracted driving also includes using a GPS, watching videos or movies, eating, drinking, smoking, and personal grooming. Even talking to passengers and driving while tired, either mentally or physically, can be forms of distracted driving.

We need to focus on the statistics here, because they are alarming.

Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to cause injury. Distracted driving is now the number one risk on Canadian roads, contributing to eight in 10 collisions, according to the CAA.

Further evidence according to the Government of Ontario says that one person is injured in a distracted driving collision every half hour. Even when drivers use a hands-free phone, they are less aware of the traffic around them. They tend to react more slowly to a critical event, or they may not detect the danger at all. One study highlighted that in 80% of collisions, the driver had looked away from the road three seconds prior to the crash. The take-away from all of these statistics is simple: distracted driving is a serious issue that must be addressed.

When it comes to texting and driving, there are various statistics. According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event compared to non-distracted drivers. This study also highlighted that while driving at 90 kilometres per hour, a driver checking a text for five seconds has travelled the length of a football field without looking. A study from the National Safety Council said that about 26% of all car crashes involve phone use, including hands-free phone use. The same study estimates that drivers using phones look at but fail to see up to 50% of the material in their driving environment.

In my riding, the intersection at Highway 7 and McCowan Road was the site of 112 crashes in 2016. The government should be doing more to reduce driver fatalities in every instance, since driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol poses just as much, if not more, of a risk to Canadians as driving while using a cellphone.

A 2017 study conducted by MADD showed that cannabis was the leading cause of fatal drug-related crashes in eight provinces and was responsible for 530 deaths nationwide. We know drugs can affect a driver's judgment, reaction time, and decision-making skills. Canadians are not entirely aware of the risks that driving while high poses.

According to a Health Canada survey, of respondents who had consumed cannabis in 2017, 39% admitted to driving within two hours of consumption, and only 2% reported being stopped by police as a result of driving under the influence.

I would like to touch on some further statistics to highlight the issue of distracted driving.

Bill C-373 is an excellent example of the way road safety in Canada can be improved. However, why is it that the Liberals are addressing this one aspect while continuing to promote their plan to make marijuana legal without properly considering the effects it will have on drug-impaired driving occurrences? According to the RCMP, driver distraction is a factor in about four million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year. Further, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, distraction was a factor in nearly six out of 10 moderate to severe teen crashes. Distracted driving is dangerous and is hurting our children. The paradox I want to highlight here is that the government would like to consult with law enforcement officials to make recommendations on this issue of distracted driving but was fine ignoring the advice of law enforcement when it came to developing an effective prevention and detection strategy to deal with drug-impaired driving. Both distracted driving and impaired driving pose very real dangers and both should be taken seriously.

The Liberal government supported legislation that imposed stricter fines and penalties on drivers impaired by alcohol, yet it has failed to do so when it comes to the same risks posed by drivers impaired by cannabis. In testimony to the justice committee, Students Against Drunk Driving's community liaison Arthur Lee made the point that students told him “the general sentiment among their peer groups was that driving under the influence of marijuana was—quote—'better' than being impaired by alcohol.” How will this misconception ever change if the Liberal government constantly prioritizes road safety in every other aspect except when it comes to properly dealing with the drug it intends to legalize?

According to the Government of Canada, economic losses caused by traffic collision-related health care costs and lost productivity are at least $10 billion annually. That is about 1% of Canada's GDP. According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, the economic and social consequences of road crashes in Canada are estimated to be $25 billion per year, including direct and indirect costs.

Bill C-373 fails to mention or consider the territories in its text as currently written. At this time, it only makes mention of the provinces. The penalties for distracted driving vary immensely between the provinces and territories. A mixture of demerit points and cash fines is a common standard of practice to deter Canadians from committing this offence. Nunavut is the only province or territory in Canada that does not have penalties put in place as a measure to discourage distracted drivers.

From all of these statistics, we can see there is a definite need to address the concern of distracted driving. The provinces are looking for federal leadership here, and we need to take this seriously.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise tonight to speak to Bill C-373, an act respecting a federal framework on distracted driving. I want to thank the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley for tabling the bill. I sit with the member on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. It is obviously a personal issue for him and I applaud him for taking action to solve a very preventable issue.

For our part, New Democrats support improving vehicle and road safety, and we understand and sympathize with the pain experienced by the families and friends of victims of distracted driving. We urge the federal government to provide better oversight of vehicle safety.

Indeed, the occurrence of distracted driving in our communities should be of concern to everyone. Distracted drivers not only put their own lives at risk, but also those of their passengers, other drivers and their passengers, as well as pedestrians and cyclists, among others.

I share the member's goal of making our streets safer. I sponsored Bill C-312, which would create a national cycling strategy. It is not that different from this piece of legislation. It seeks to make our roads safer for cyclists among other provisions, including side guards on trucks. We know that all users of the road need to work closely together to create more safe cycling. I mention this fact to highlight for the member that I share his commitment to make our streets and communities safer.

On Vancouver Island, where I am from, distracted driving is a huge concern in every neighbourhood and every community. Vancouver Island is no exception. In a story published just yesterday, the Parksville Qualicum Beach News reported on a crackdown on distracted driving by the RCMP in Oceanside. In that story, some statistics from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia were presented.

ICBC found that distracted driving is responsible for more than one-quarter of all car crash fatalities in British Columbia. Distracted driving is the second leading contributor of car crash fatalities in B.C. and results in 78 deaths each year, on average. Distracted driving has moved ahead of impaired driving-related fatal crashes. On average, 89 deaths occur in speed-related crashes and 66 in impaired-related crashes. Every year, on average, nine people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes on Vancouver Island. All of them could be avoided.

In another story, the Comox Valley Record reported on March 2 that the Province of B.C. and ICBC are rolling out tougher penalties for distracted drivers beginning this month. We are grateful for that. For Vancouver Island residents, it is both timely and important that we are debating this bill today to coincide with those actions.

Bill C-373 would enable the Department of Justice and Department of Transport to develop a federal framework to deter and prevent distracted driving. More specifically, the Minister of Justice would work with the Minister of Transport and provincial governments to establish a federal framework to coordinate efforts in the provinces to deter and prevent distracted driving, especially the use of telephones while driving.

The framework prescribed in Bill C-373 must cover all of the following elements: the collection of information and statistics relating to incidents that occur as a result of distracted driving involving the use of handheld electronic devices; the administration and enforcement of laws respecting such distracted driving; the creation and implementation of public education programs to deter distracted driving; the role of driver-assisted technology in reducing the number of incidents that occur as a result of distracted driving; the sharing among the provinces of best practices regarding deterrence and prevention; and recommendations regarding possible amendments to federal laws, policies, and programs.

It is difficult to oppose the idea of increased road safety and the reduction of distracted driving, but I do have some real concerns about this piece of legislation. While the bill is not fundamentally detrimental to road safety, there are at least three main concerns that my New Democrat colleagues and I have about the bill.

We have concerns related to federalism and jurisdictional matters between the federal and provincial governments. As well, we are concerned that such co-operation could be redundant given the significant level of co-operation currently between the federal and provincial governments through their road safety strategy 2025. Finally, we are concerned that Transport Canada is already seriously deficient in the management of vehicle safety standards and that the bill, if passed, could increase this deficiency.

With regard to our jurisdictional concerns in Canada, road safety is a shared responsibility of the federal government and the provincial and territorial governments. Distracted driving, such as driving while using a cellphone, is considered a regulatory offence in the provinces and territories. Therefore, depending on the circumstances, distracted driving can also be deemed a criminal offence under section 249 of the Criminal Code if the court is convinced that an individual was driving in a manner that is dangerous to the public. As such, it is the provinces and territories that are primarily responsible for road safety legislation. New Democrats believe that they are best placed to identify priorities in this area.

On the possible redundancy, we must be reminded again that the existing goal of the road safety strategy 2025 is to standardize the improvement process across the country using best practices for specific issues. The main ones are as follows: raising public awareness and commitment to road safety; improving communication, co-operation, and collaboration among stakeholders; enhancing legislation and enforcement; improving road safety information in support of research and evaluation; improving the safety of vehicles and road infrastructure; and leveraging technology and innovation.

While the road safety strategy 2025 and Bill C-373 use different language and their scope is somewhat different, when looking at their provisions together, it is hard to imagine that the objectives of the latter would not find a good home within the work of the federal and provincial governments as they implement the former.

On our concern about the capacity of Transport Canada to effectively implement new policies, indeed Transport Canada is struggling mightily to address the concerns raised by the Auditor General in his report entitled “Oversight of Passenger Vehicle Safety”. In that report, the Auditor General stated, “We found that the absence of long-term operational planning led to several decisions that affected research activities and other operations. [...] We also found that the operating budget for crashworthiness testing was cut by 59 percent for the 2016–17 fiscal year, from $1.2 million to $492,000.”

Since Transport Canada is already failing to show the leadership that we are calling for, in terms of cutting funding for existing safety programs, we have to wonder if it makes sense to further burden this department with additional new responsibilities.

Those are our concerns, and I would hope that they are addressed in a meaningful way when this bill reaches committee.

In closing, I want to thank the member again for tabling this proposed legislation. It is greatly appreciated. I want to reiterate that my New Democrat colleagues and I share his concern for making our streets and communities safer. In spite of some flaws, which I hope can be addressed in committee, I offer him my support for Bill C-373 at second reading. Again, it is an honour and pleasure to rise today in support of this bill.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario


Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the second reading debate of Bill C-373, an act respecting a federal framework on distracted driving. On the whole, I fully support the federal, provincial, and territorial work that is already being done on the very pressing issue of distracted driving.

Before I discuss the proposals in Bill C-373 in detail, I would like to acknowledge the commendable objectives and hard work on this bill, and express my gratitude to the hon. member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, who introduced this bill in the House. I am not just saying that because he is my bench neighbour. He has put in a lot of hard work and energy into this bill, and I commend him for it.

At the outset, I think it is important to recognize that distracted driving poses a serious concern and risk to road safety, and those concerns are indeed escalating. The rate of motor vehicle collisions resulting from distracted driving has accelerated over the past decade due in large part to the widespread use of smart phones and other electronic hand-held devices.

I will now discuss certain specific proposals of Bill C-373. This bill would require the Minister of Justice, in co-operation with the Minister of Transport and the provincial and territorial governments, to develop a federal framework for the implementation of measures to deter distracted driving involving the use of hand-held electronic devices.

The proposed federal framework must cover six key elements: the mandatory collection of information and statistics; the enforcement of laws; public education programs on the dangers of distracted driving; driver-assistance technologies; the sharing of best practices among the provinces; and recommendations regarding possible amendments to federal laws, policies, and programs.

Four of these six key elements involve the use of both federal and provincial resources. The sharing of best practices among the provinces would only involve the provinces. The bill would also require the preparation of a report setting out the federal framework. This report must be tabled within 18 months following the coming into force of the bill. Within three years of the tabling of the first report, a report resulting from a comprehensive review of the federal framework must be tabled in Parliament. This comprehensive review must be undertaken in consultation with the provinces, territories, and key stakeholders.

As I have said, the objectives of the bill are laudable, but the government is unable to support this legislative initiative for a number of reasons. First, it is the provinces and territories who are primarily responsible for measures that respond to distracted driving. Virtually all of the provinces and territories already have legislation or regulations concerning the use of electronic hand-held devices while driving. Nunavut's legislation will be coming into force later this year.

Second, the Criminal Code includes a criminal offence of dangerous driving under section 249. If a distracted driver operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public, police already have the authority to lay criminal charges of dangerous driving. I would also note that in April of 2017, the government introduced Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other acts. The bill is currently being considered by the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in the other place. It would reform the entire Criminal Code regime dealing with transportation offences by repealing all of the current provisions and replacing them with a modern, simplified, and coherent new part in the Criminal Code. It would also reform impaired driving laws to strengthen existing drug-impaired driving laws and create a regime that would be among the strongest in the world.

During federal, provincial, and territorial discussions leading to Bill C-46, the issue of distracted driving involving the use of an electronic hand-held device was raised. It was accepted that the current dangerous driving offence in the Criminal Code sufficiently covers distracted driving that rises to the level of creating a danger to the public and that should result in a criminal investigation and charge.

A third reason that the government is unable to support this legislative initiative is that the bill would duplicate the actions and efforts already being coordinated by the Minister of Transport and Transport Canada. The Minister of Transport presently co-leads a distracted driving working group under the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators. The imposition of a new federal federal framework on top of an existing initiative is very likely to conflict in some ways and overlap in others. Provinces are likely to see federal legislation on this matter as potentially intruding in the areas of their jurisdiction and as an implied criticism or expression of concern with regard to their efforts. This may undermine federal-provincial collaboration, which already exists and is going very well.

Over the past year, the Minister of Transport has advocated for nationally consistent enforcement measures and higher sanctions for drivers who violate provincial or territorial laws by using a hand-held device while driving. Provinces and territories have been encouraged to improve their data collection and create harmonized rules across all jurisdictions. Many of those jurisdictions have responded favourably to these suggestions and have agreed to continue to discuss these matters through the federal, provincial, and territorial council of ministers responsible for transportation and highway safety.

A fourth reason that the government is unfortunately unable to support Bill C-373 is that fully implementing the proposals in this private member's bill would have cost implications for both the federal government and the provinces and territories. It would not be surprising if provinces and territories looked to the federal government for assistance in funding some of the elements of the proposed federal framework.

The government strongly supports measures to address the serious problem of distracted driving. The work of the CCMTA, which is co-led by Transport Canada, is an important demonstration of the type of federal, provincial, and territorial co-operation that exists on this issue.

Developing a federal framework would not have a greater impact on deterring distracted driving beyond what is already being done at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels. It would not significantly improve existing co-operative efforts, and indeed could duplicate processes that are under way and potentially diffuse those initiatives. For all of these reasons, the government cannot support the proposals in Bill C-373. Of course, voting against the private member's bill will ensure that existing federal, provincial, and territorial discussions will remain intact, constructive, and productive. It will allow us to continue to focus on the exceptional work that is already being done to address distracted driving.

Notwithstanding all of these comments, I want to end where I began, by commending my hon. colleague for his efforts, his energy, and for the passion that he brings to this important subject.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Before we resume debate, I want to remind everyone in the House that a debate is going on. It sounds like there is a bit of a rumble that continues with people speaking to each other, and it makes it hard for all of us to hear the great speeches that are being given tonight.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Yellowhead.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today on Bill C-373. It is a great bill. It brings a lot of information, but as the last speaker said, it has some problems. I am going to address those a little later.

Last month I got up here and spoke to Motion No. 148, which established a National Impaired Driving Prevention Week. Impaired driving has been a Criminal Code offence in Canada since 1921. It is still a problem. It has not gone away. We still need to address it. Statistics tell us that one in five drivers involved in fatal collisions have been drinking. I even look at my own province, the province of Alberta, and between 2011 and 2015, 389 Albertans were killed and 6,000 were injured due to driving with alcohol.

Impaired driving is still a problem, whether it be alcohol, drugs, or a cellphone. Motion No. 148 received unanimous support in the House, and I want to thank all the members for that because it was an important motion.

Today, Bill C-373 focuses on distractions. The number of deaths are equally close to those of impaired driving by alcohol. In fact, there are a number of provinces, including Ontario and B.C., where distracted driving now outnumbers the fatal collisions caused by impaired driving. That is not good. That is bad.

Drivers who text are 23% more likely to have an accident than those who do not. I remember last year a police officer from Vancouver pulled over a driver, and he shared a photo of the distracted driver that went viral across Canada and North America. As the officer approached the pulled over vehicle, he saw the driver had attached his phone to his steering wheel with a piece of string. Then he went through all the trouble to wedge his tablet between the wheel and the phone. He even had his headphones stuck on his head plugged into the phone, and was driving with them. It is a wonder he ever even noticed the policeman trying to pull him over, and it took quite a while to get that done. That is ridiculous. It is almost criminal when we think about how stupid people can be.

I am going to speak a little about my earlier days as a police officer, because I think I can add a few stories that will bring a little understanding to the situation we have here. It is not new, folks. It has been there for a long time. One day I was driving down the road and it was snowing outside. It was slushy and it was early in the morning. I was going just under the speed limit because it just was not quite safe to go that fast. I saw this guy going by me, and I was quite surprised. I looked out the window, and there he was driving down the road with one hand on the wheel of the car and one hand on a razor, shaving himself at six o'clock in the morning while driving down a slushy, wet, slippery highway.

I remember once driving and following a lady who was kind of weaving a little bit. I could see her keep looking over at the mirror. I pulled her over. She was putting makeup on as she was driving down the road. Another time I was driving down the highway and I swore I had an impaired driver in front of me. He was weaving to the right, weaving to the left, and I could see his head bobbing up and down. I thought, what the heck? I thought I had an impaired driver, so I followed him long enough to get the evidence and then I pulled him over. Yes, he was driving impaired. He had a book on the steering wheel of his car and he was reading as he was driving down the highway. Now, the last two definitely got tickets for it.

Today, cellphones are a big problem, driving and texting a bigger problem, and even talking through a Bluetooth system is dangerous. I will try to clarify that a little. As I said earlier, drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or a near miss. The statistics are out there. Whether texting or even talking, a person can fail to see 50% of the information in front of them because their mind is thinking about what they are talking about or what they are texting. Fifty per cent of what that person is driving toward is being missed.

It has been said that trying to text and drive is like driving blindfolded down the length of a football field, which is 110 yards, yet people continue to do it. Every day we see them going down the road. They are texting and they are driving. They are putting their lives and others at risk. Even talking as a person drives poses a risk. We do not believe it does because we think that the Bluetooth is a safe addition to our car. However, people are not paying full attention. As I mentioned earlier, a person misses stuff in front of them.

The technology we have today is great. Most of us have Bluetooth technology in our vehicles. Evidence shows that even talking, connecting, or disconnecting from a wireless phone system distracts the driver for 27 seconds. They calculated that out. They figured that out. They watched people driving around. Twenty-seven seconds at 40 kilometres an hour is like driving down the length of three football fields. That is getting close to 1,000 feet. That is a pretty long distance to be distracted.

Just think about it. All of us have freeways in our constituencies. It might be 110, but everybody drives about 120. That is about the average on the freeways in Canada. Thus, 120 is three times faster than 40 kilometres an hour and getting close to 3,000 feet. That is half a mile that a person has missed. A lot can happen in half a mile.

It becomes scary when we start putting the math to it and the statistical data that is out there. Recent stats, according to Statistics Canada, indicate that distracted driving plays a role in 23% of fatal accidents and 20% of those with injuries. The numbers are continuing to rise.

This bill focuses on handheld electronic devices, but this is where I think the bill kind of failed a little bit. I think we could have gone further. As I mentioned earlier, distraction comes in many forms. I just want to read what we, in the RCMP, had as a quote. It said that this is “a form of impaired driving as a driver's judgment is compromised when they are not fully focused on the road”. That is what I am talking about. It continued, “Distracted driving qualifies as talking on a cell phone, texting, reading...using a GPS, watching videos or movies, eating/drinking, smoking, personal grooming, adjusting the radio/CD and playing extremely loud music.” Hey, we all do it quite a bit. “Even talking to passengers and driving while fatigued...can be forms of distracted driving.”

This bill focuses on handheld electronic devices but distractions come in many forms. In the RCMP, as I mentioned before, distractions like people shaving or putting on makeup are a problem. It is happening today. However, there are other distractions such as other people in the vehicle who are talking, arguing, or playing loud music. That takes our attention away from driving. That is distracted driving. As well, people have a fondness for pets. We have all taken our pets and put them on the seats of our vehicles as we drive. We pet them and look at them, and pet them again. Those are all forms of distracted driving and I believe that Bill C-373 was trying to reach them. I think that we need to look at it, but maybe we should expand it.

One concern I have is that I do not understand why the territories are excluded from this bill. Maybe I missed this, but it only mentions the provinces. However, statistics show that since 2006 the Northwest Territories and the Yukon have a high percentage of drivers using cellphones.

One thing I like about Bill C-373, and I think it is very important, is that it proposes a national framework on distracted driving. It would improve the collection of information and statistics. This is so vital. When I was looking up the research here, there was not enough for all the problems that I know are out there.

To make this bill work, we need collaboration between lawmakers, enforcement agencies, citizens, provinces, and industries. Therefore, we all need to work together to eliminate distracted driving. Bill C-373 is a necessary piece of legislation, but I am not sure if we can enact it when I look at all of the legal ramifications.

I would like to thank the member for bringing this bill forward. I think it is very worthy of having a good debate and discussion in the House.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

March 20th, 2018 / 6:35 p.m.


Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House to provide the closing statement on my bill, an act respecting a federal framework on distracted driving. I want to thank all of my colleagues who stood here today and provided thoughtful and fruitful debate.

The last time I spoke to my bill in the House I shared the stories of Amutha and Senhit, who both had their lives taken away by the driver of another vehicle who was distracted by her cellphone and drove through a red light. Sadly, this story is not unique. The loss of a loved one by a distracted driver is an experience shared by families from coast to coast to coast.

Between the first hour of debate when I shared this story and today, more families in Canada have been added to a growing anthology of grief and sadness. Right now, statistics show that people are more likely to be the victims of a distracted driver than a drunk driver.

In my home province of Manitoba, last year was one of the safest for drivers since 1982, with a 32% decrease in fatalities from 2016. While this is a significant improvement, that statistic still represents 73 fatalities in 65 collisions. While a full analysis of the collisions is still under review, Manitoba Public Insurance has stated that distracted driving continues to be a primary contributing factor in fatal collisions.

It is time to address this issue.

Just as we were able to address drunk driving by changing federal and provincial legislation, by providing law enforcement with the necessary resources and tools, and educating Canadians on the dangers of drinking and driving, it is time to seriously address distracted driving.

My bill calls upon the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Transport to work with their provincial counterparts to develop a framework with six provisions on the collection of information; the administration and enforcement of laws respecting distracted driving; the creation and implementation of public education programs; the role of driver-assistance technology; the sharing of best practices among jurisdictions; and recommendations regarding possible amendments to federal laws, policies, and programs. When combined in a national framework, these can lead to common measures that will help curb distracted driving. This would be an opportunity for the federal government and the provinces, in the spirit of co-operative federalism, to expand the good work they have done together.

If a framework to prevent distracted driving can lead us to solutions to get people to not pick up their cellphones, can provide provinces with the right information, can provide law enforcement with the right tools and practices, can change technology in vehicles, and can save lives, then I have done my duty for my constituents and so has everyone in this chamber.

In my time in the emergency room I have set too many bones, I have patched too many wounds, and I have stopped too many people from bleeding out to not speak out. I have watched too many die. While I am no longer in the emergency room helping to treat victims of collisions and distracted drivers, I am here in the House to work with my colleagues and to the best of my ability to stop people from being victims at all.

Whereas I am aware of the government's reservations about this legislation, I am committed, if the bill passes, to making significant amendments to it in committee in order to address these concerns. I call upon the support of all of my colleagues to help me pass this legislation and save lives.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members



Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those opposed will please say nay.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, a recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 21, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

It being 6:43 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 307, the House will now proceed to the consideration of Bill C-369 under private members' business.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

moved that Bill C-369, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Indigenous Peoples Day), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in the House of Commons to present the first hour of debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-369. In short, my bill seeks to make National Indigenous Peoples Day a national statutory holiday.

My bill proposes that June 21 be designated a day to honour and recognize the unique culture and views of first nations, Inuit, and Métis status and non-status peoples and the contributions they have made to our collective society.

As a first nations woman and the member of Parliament for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, I stand in determination not only for the communities in my riding but in solidarity with the first nations, Inuit, and Métis from coast to coast to coast. I also stand with those indigenous youth who are no longer with us.

It is important for this House to recognize that my bill was originally meant to be presented on February 14, but it was pushed back because of the take-note debate on the indigenous experience in Canada's justice system.

The lives and memories of indigenous peoples affect us all, in both profound and simple ways. I would encourage all members to take a moment to reflect on these influences today.

One aim of my bill is to bring a sense of hope to indigenous communities across Canada by creating a day that recognizes their lives, their culture, and their influence. My bill responds to one of the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The commission said:

We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

It does not get any clearer than that. If we, as partners in reconciliation, want to take the process of reconciliation seriously, it is crucial that the members of this House support my bill. My bill would create a public opportunity to better engage and understand the impacts of critical issues affecting indigenous peoples and settler society. Among these issues are the long-lasting impacts of residential schools, the 60s scoop, child foster care issues, our treaty relationships, and missing and murdered indigenous women.

These are not issues that exist in the past. First nations, Métis, and northern children and youth are hurting. Their families and communities are struggling to secure employment and make ends meet. Families do not have access to services and they become trapped in the cycle of poverty and foster care.

In Saskatchewan alone, 87% of children in foster care are indigenous. We must ask ourselves what our children see. Do indigenous children and youth, girls in particular, see a country that, in both word and deed, champions their intrinsic importance? Do the different levels of government and those in different positions of authority, communicate that their lives are valued?

Let us reflect on these questions as we consider the overrepresentation of indigenous children in foster care, the high rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the overrepresentation of first nation, Inuit, and Métis in corrections facilities and prisons.

More than two years ago, the ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal was clear. The Canadian government was guilty of racially discriminating against tens of thousands of first nation children in systematically underfunding federal services. The tribunal's ruling called on the federal government for immediate, medium-, and long-term reforms so that children can receive the treatment they deserve. Children are entitled to feel safe, to be cared for, and to feel and be valued, and they deserve the same opportunities as everyone else.

Now that we see the budget for 2018, we acknowledge the commitment of the government to help indigenous people in Canada. However, funding is only one aspect of the reconciliation project. Canadians also need encouragement towards understanding indigenous history, identity, and nationhood, in tandem with Canadian history.

In order to strengthen the public's awareness and increase support of the nation-to-nation process that is vital to reconciliation, my bill provides an opportunity for all people living in Canada to celebrate, recognize, and honour first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples' diverse historical, cultural, and linguistic contributions.

Passing Bill C-369 allows for a national opportunity, not only to reflect on our history but also to celebrate indigenous culture. My bill would create time for all Canadians to reflect on our treaty relationships and other agreements with indigenous nations. It creates a platform for us all to gather and involve ourselves in the conversation that leads to a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within indigenous communities. Only when we work together can we make progress toward reconciliation. After all, we are stronger when we are together.

My bill is not the first time that National Aboriginal Day has been brought up in the House. National Aboriginal Day was the result of consultations and statements of support made by indigenous groups across the country. In 1982, the National Indian Brotherhood, now known as the Assembly of First Nations, launched a campaign to have National Aboriginal Day recognized as a national holiday. In 1986, June 21 was proclaimed National Aboriginal Day by then Governor General of Canada Roméo LeBlanc.

Those who are paying attention will note that June 21 is also the summer solstice, which holds a special significance to many indigenous peoples in Canada. Now known as National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21 is recognized as a statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories, and last May it was declared a statutory holiday in Yukon. A similar bill was tabled in the Ontario legislature in September 2017, which was titled “Indigenous Day Act: A Path to Truth and Reconciliation”. My bill is not unprecedented, and its principles have had success in Canada in the past.

The Assembly of First Nations has been pushing for National Indigenous Peoples Day to be recognized federally for years. In fact, in 2016, the AFN passed a resolution at its annual general assembly calling for June 21 to be a statutory holiday.

Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations has supported my motion. The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples supported Bill C-369 when it was tabled under its original name. National Chief Robert Bertrand was present at the press conference to voice his support publicly. UFCW Canada has endorsed this bill, and reports that in six collective agreements in four different provinces, National Indigenous Peoples Day is recognized as a paid holiday. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has endorsed the call for National Indigenous Peoples Day to become a statutory holiday. The Vancouver Aboriginal Child & Family Services Society has expressed the need to make National Indigenous Peoples Day a statutory holiday. We have received numerous letters and calls from Canadians, indigenous and non-indigenous, who are in favour of making June 21 a statutory holiday.

Despite the historical precedent and significant support, I want to speak to some of the criticism I have received about my bill. It is no surprise to members of this House that the nature of our jobs brings criticism from those people who do not believe we are doing our jobs well enough. However, a lot of what I have heard with regard to this bill has been unprofessional, illogical, uncalled for and, plainly put, racist. Being a first nations woman from northern Saskatchewan, I have heard this type of language before, and I will hear it again in the future. Too many indigenous peoples live with this language on a daily basis, and I firmly believe that taking steps toward reconciliation will alleviate at least some of the pain caused by this language.

My bill has also been discussed publicly at the same time as the verdicts in the cases related to Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine. While much of the public conversation about Colten and Tina has been filled with love and calls for justice, too much of it has been about hate, misconceptions, biases, and individuals saying that the system worked. This is the language that a settler society uses to continue its oppression of indigenous peoples.

Individuals will always be free to speak their minds, but if the government is committed to changing the conversation with and about indigenous peoples in this country, we need to take steps that will change the spaces in which those conversations take place. My bill is one such step. We as a government cannot change the hearts and minds of Canadians or limit their expression, but what we can do together is change the environment where the process of reconciliation is taking place.

As I have already said, my bill creates a day of reflection and celebration of indigenous history and contributions to our collective society. It takes the extra step of allowing most Canadians a day off work to join our indigenous friends and neighbours in celebrating their cultures and remembering their history. My bill is a necessary step toward changing the public conversation about indigenous people in this country. It is on us as members of this House to make time to do those things.

We all know it is not unprecedented for this House to make time for everyone in Canada to celebrate together. Every year, Canadians gather on July 1 to celebrate the history of our nation, and most people are given the day off to celebrate with their neighbours. Every year, Canadians are given the day off work to celebrate Christmas or to take the day to spend time with their families and celebrate their own religious holidays. We also recognize new beginnings and give Canadians January 1 to think about the new year ahead of them. These days, among others, are days of national celebration.

Further, this House recognizes days of reflection and mourning as part of our national experience. November 11 is our day of remembrance, a day to understand and appreciate those who have served Canada in war, armed conflict, and peace. We also use Labour Day to remember the workers who have suffered in dangerous conditions and enshrined workers' rights as human rights.

In both of these respects, celebration and reflection, my bill fits with the historical precedent of statutory holidays in Canada. Let us not be bogged down by the conversations I have both listened to and been a part of that another statutory holiday is unnecessary and goes too far. Canada is a complex country full of complex peoples and complex ideas. In many ways, we have too much to celebrate and too much to remember, but that should not take away from our national project of reconciliation.

It feels as though the time will never be right for a bill that asks for special recognition of indigenous culture and history, but the government has continuously stated that the most important relationship is the one with indigenous peoples. That same government has committed to answer the calls of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the spirit of healing and truth. It begs the question, when is the right time?

If the burden of reconciliation is too difficult for us to take on as a country, then we must seriously consider our roles as elected leaders in Canada. If reconciliation is too hard for our government to support in full, then we must seriously reconsider our government. Reconciliation was not meant to be a label or a chapter title for a settler government to adopt as a symbol of progress. Reconciliation is not a feel good promise of better days ahead for a colonial society. Reconciliation is not seeing the indigenization of our institutions for the betterment of those who are already in power. First nations, Inuit, and Métis people are tired of waiting for the right time to come along. Indigenous people cannot wait for the next election year to get another empty promise from the government.

I ask that as elected officials we go beyond talking points and formally make June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, a statutory holiday. This would create an opportunity to share, to celebrate, and to open up a dialogue for all people living in Canada to better understand and empathize with first nations, Inuit, and Métis people. I encourage hon. members on all sides to consider this bill to begin building the bridges of understanding between Canada and the first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.


Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for bringing this bill forward.

The member talked about the celebration of indigenous cultures as a key element of this, yet call to action 80 talks about reconciliation, residential schools, and the black mark on our history.

I realize we have different national holidays with different purposes. Remembrance Day is a very solemn holiday, while New Years Day is one that is very celebratory. It strikes me that in the true spirit of the calls to action that the real theme of a national holiday such as this one would be more akin to self-examination and reflection as opposed to celebration. Would the member care to comment on that?

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to break it down into different themes. As an indigenous person living in Canada, I see a number of avenues.

First, why do we not get a chance, as indigenous people across Canada, to have an opportunity to celebrate like everyone else in Canada? We are the original people of Canada, yet we are still waiting.

Another angle I like to take is reconciliation. As an indigenous person, indigenous people across Canada understand the word “reconciliation” obviously differently than the hon. member across the floor. My understanding of reconciliation is of celebration, respect, love, acceptance, and the list goes on. To me as an indigenous person, that is what it means. Across Canada, indigenous people will feel the same way.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to thank my colleague for her passion and commitment. I worked with her on the indigenous affairs committee and I know how passionately she advocates in many areas of importance.

We have had this debate in the House on many occasions. I will use Remembrance Day as an example. On Remembrance Day, the legions, in particular, feel that having a statutory holiday, a paid day off, is not the best way to recognize and celebrate Remembrance Day. In the riding I represent, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, when we have celebrations, schoolchildren come with their classes and their parents join them.

Again, I am not sure, in spite of the member's good intentions, that we would not have a more effective celebration in which we commit to come together, but not necessarily on a day off. Quite frankly, sometimes people prefer to go shopping as opposed to really reflecting on the spirit of the day.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to break it down.

I have one question I like to ask, based on the question of the member. Does she not want Remembrance Day anymore in Canada?

The way I understand it, the national Remembrance Day in Saskatchewan is well revered. In Canada, I know that for Canadians it is well revered. Youth are being taught in school about the importance of the contributions that Canada has made at the international level to save Canada, to protect Canada, and to ensure Canada remains a strong nation. The children have that opportunity in school.

A national holiday allows Canadians to be at home, to be among each other, and to sit and reflect. I have participated in discussions with Canadians on the importance of Remembrance Day and the importance of a national holiday. As with the national indigenous state, it is very important to have the same respect for indigenous people across Canada.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.


Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-369, an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Indigenous People Day), introduced by the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

The bill proposes to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code to modify the definition of holidays within each of these acts to include National Indigenous Peoples Day as part of these definitions. As a result, it would establish National Indigenous Peoples Day as a paid non-working holiday for approximately 904,000 employees working in the federally regulated private sector. This represents about 6% of Canada's workforce.

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been celebrated across Canada for 21 years. In 1996, the Government of Canada, in co-operation with national indigenous organizations, designated June 21, the summer solstice, as a day to recognize indigenous peoples in Canada. This day was designated National Aboriginal Day by way of a proclamation signed by the Right Hon. Roméo LeBlanc, the then Governor General of Canada, on the advice of the Queen's Privy Council. In 2017, the Prime Minister announced that the government intended to rename June 21 National Indigenous Peoples Day.

This day aims to highlight the unique and significant heritage, cultures, and contributions of first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day fosters greater knowledge and understanding of our history and of the traditions and customs that played a key role in shaping the country we know today as Canada. It provides the perfect opportunity to learn about the people, places, and events that are a part of the history of our land and it permits us to realize the importance that diversity plays in our great country.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is one of the four celebrate Canada days. This suite of special days starts on June 21 with National Indigenous Peoples Day and includes Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day on June 24, Canadian Multiculturalism Day on June 27, and Canada Day on July 1. The celebrate Canada days put a spotlight on Canada's diverse cultures. They help us honour the heritage and backgrounds of those who came before us and those who continue to strive for a Canada that is reflective of all its citizens, a Canada that is truly inclusive.

Celebrations in 2017 were an opportunity for a greater number of Canadians to participate in activities in all parts of the country. Indeed, as we marked the 150th anniversary of Confederation, more Canadians than ever took part in community events and celebrations on National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Through its celebrate Canada program, the Government of Canada made such investments so as to provide funding for over 1,700 community celebrations in 2017. Events were held in each province and territory. Additionally, high impact events marking the day were held in eight cities across Canada and were broadcast through a partnership with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and through social media. An unprecedented 1.2 million Canadians had the chance to take in these celebrations.

Every year, there is a wide range of activities on offer, including ceremonies, cultural displays, and stage performances. These activities highlight the traditions and contemporary vision of indigenous peoples. They give children and families a chance to taste foods, listen to stories, and marvel at the art and artistry of the descendants of the first inhabitants of this land.

From traditional smudging ceremonies to concerts, National Indigenous Peoples Day showcases a broad spectrum of indigenous culture and proves that it is alive and important.

The legacy of residential schools is a stain on our past and we must seize every chance we get to rebuild relationships between indigenous communities and the rest of Canada. As the Prime Minister has stated, no relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with indigenous peoples.

In 2015, the truth and reconciliation commission presented a report that included 94 calls to action to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation. The Government of Canada committed to implementing these recommendations, including call to action 80 that urges the federal government, in collaboration with aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a national day for truth and reconciliation to honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure the public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

To that end, the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River has introduced a bill to make National Indigenous Peoples Day a paid statutory holiday for some of Canada's workforce, namely federally regulated private-sector employees.

Under the Canadian constitutional framework, this is the first step in establishing a new statutory holiday. It is important to note that in order for us to designate this day as a paid holiday for all Canadians, federal public service collective agreements have to be amended, and the provinces and territories have to amend their respective laws if they have not done so already.

I should note that June 21 has been a paid statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories since 2001 and in Yukon since 2017.

I am pleased to contribute to today's debate and to call upon the House to carefully consider all the implications of the bill before us. I think we can aspire to an outcome that is aligned with the commitment to renew the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, and co-operation in the same way the designation of National Indigenous Peoples Day 21 years ago was the result of a process that engaged and co-operated with the community.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join this important debate on my colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-369, which proposes to turn National Indigenous Peoples Day into a statutory holiday.

Conservatives have proudly marked National Indigenous Peoples Day annually, both in government and in opposition. We have encouraged Canadians to take part in local celebrations to learn our history and also celebrate the immense contributions of indigenous peoples to Canada.

The leader of the official opposition has stated that National Aboriginal Day is a celebration of the cultural heritage, achievements, and contributions made by first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada. National Indigenous Peoples Day is not considered a national federal holiday. Bill C-369 seeks to change that. As such, it would amend the Bills of Exchange Act and the Interpretation Act in order to take this new holiday into account in the computation of time. It would also amend the Canada Labour Code in order to include the National Indigenous Peoples Day in the definition of a general holiday.

We certainly heard from the speaker just prior to me that this would not be a holiday for all Canadians. This bill would actually impact 6% of the labour force. There are issues with the provinces and territories. It is important to be very clear that this is not something that would happen across Canada.

We believe in reconciliation with all indigenous peoples. The opportunity for poverty reduction should be a key priority. First nations people should expect and have the right to a transparent and open government. We respect and appreciate National Indigenous Peoples Day, but we are not sure that creating a federal statutory holiday is the approach to take.

As I look over time, we have had many additions to our national holidays, but we have never actually talked about taking any away. I know private industry becomes increasingly concerned as more challenges are put on them, but what we never do is look at what might be more important than an existing holiday. If the House is going to support a measure like this to go forward, we need to look at existing holidays and talk about if all of them still make sense.

Quite frankly, when the non-partisan Library of Parliament was asked to consider what the costs would be to Canada's economy, it said that there did not appear to be any empirical studies. We will actually be voting on something, adding something, not taking anything away, and we will not have any real understanding of what the costs would be related to that. This is a private member's bill that would have significant impact, and I think we need to have a pretty clear understanding of what that impact would be.

We also know that we currently have a government that is spending lots of money. The Liberals are spending more money than they said they would spend. The deficit is going to be significantly higher than what was committed to Canadians. The Liberals' spending is out of control. To add more costs in terms of what the government is doing means we need to find out where it is going to start being sensible about its expenditures. More importantly, there is the issue of whether there is a holiday that should be taken away if we are going to look at adding one on. There is a significant impact on federally regulated businesses, but also potentially in terms of the federal public service.

I go back to the Royal Canadian Legion and the whole discussion around Remembrance Day and whether it is a statutory holiday. It is very different across the country. Legion officials have always expressed their worries that having the day off does not encourage people to attend the celebrations. The War Amps of Canada officials explicitly stated, “Our stance is that it should never be a holiday; you take away the uniqueness of being able to educate the younger generation on the horrors of war.”

In terms of the National Indigenous Peoples Day, I have had the privilege and honour to be both in my riding and in Ottawa on June 21. In McDonald Park in Kamloops, people come together and the celebration is amazing. Teachers come with their students to the park. Parents come to the park. It is truly an honour and a celebration. It is a recognition, locally, of the incredible contribution. Later that day, we gather on the grounds, and they have another celebration. These are very well-attended celebrations. The schoolchildren who come, and many do come and join us, are particularly enlightened, in terms of having the opportunity to benefit.

In Ottawa, it is the same thing. Many of us here have gone to the ceremony when the sun comes up and have enjoyed the Inuit music. We have enjoyed the celebrations, the dancing and singing of the Métis and the first nations. We all come together.

I am not always convinced that giving a day off is the best way to celebrate and honour this, and for people to learn. Again, I look at the experience in the community of Kamloops and across British Columbia. The evening newscasts on June 21 show amazing celebrations across the country.

I recognize the important intent of what my colleague would like to do. I think it needs some really important discussion to see if this is the best way to honour and recognize this, or whether continuing as we are is the best way forward.

I noticed that when my colleague was talking about the people who support this, she actually did not talk about the people who are going to be directly impacted, in terms of the federally regulated industries also providing their support for this particular bill. That is certainly something that is important, to see that federally regulated institutes across this country are on board. To date, we have not seen that.

In conclusion, we are having an important debate right now. I think we need to make sure it is a very fulsome debate.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to my NDP colleague's Bill C-369. I am especially pleased that she introduced this bill, because this subject is very important to me. Designating a national indigenous peoples day would allow indigenous peoples to organize activities and talk about their culture, their history, and how they have influenced this country. On top of that, making this day a holiday would allow non-indigenous people to take part in the activities. That is the most important part.

Sadly, the history of the indigenous peoples is often poorly explained in our history books. We all took history classes in school, and we often heard the official version, rather than what really happened. There are still many people who do not know what really happened in the residential schools, for example. There are still people who do not know that such schools even existed.

This day would allow us to draw closer. It is important to understand the reality and experiences of indigenous peoples. That is why a statutory holiday is needed, because it would allow people to participate in activities. The indigenous communities in our ridings could organize events and invite people to join them, and people would be able to go because it would be a statutory holiday. People are happy to have the opportunity to participate in family activities. If this day were made a statutory holiday, the whole community could participate.

In its report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission indicated that reconciliation is not an indigenous problem, it is a Canadian problem. We must be able to re-examine all aspects of Canadian society, and turning National Indigenous Peoples Day into a statutory holiday, as my colleague's bill proposes, would be a way of doing just that.

Neighbouring communities must help indigenous communities preserve their culture. We need to get involved because we all have a responsibility to contribute. Whether we like it or not, indigenous culture is part of the history of our regions. Abitibi-Témiscamingue would never have been the same without the contribution of indigenous peoples. Our history is closely tied to what happened with the Algonquin.

When the first settlers arrived in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, they were practically abandoned. They were told that they would get land and that they would have to fend for themselves and hope to survive winter. Without help from indigenous communities and the Algonquin who were living in the region and who showed these people how to survive and adapt to this reality, we would not be here today. I think it is right for us to celebrate this day together. We are talking about a holiday in celebration of one of our country's founding nations. Our country would definitely not be the same without the indigenous peoples. It is even likely that the first settlers would not have survived without help from indigenous peoples and that the venture would simply have been abandoned.

The first settlers who arrived with Jacques Cartier would probably not have survived if not for indigenous peoples. They would probably all have died of scurvy. I do not understand how anyone could think that such an important time in our history should not be celebrated with a holiday. This is about increasing dialogue between communities, so that we can eventually work towards reconciliation. It should be a time to pause.

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to participate in powwows held in my riding in mid-June. This has given me the chance to learn more about the communities. I have also learned about the traditional foods, because there are all kinds of learning activities on indigenous and Algonquin culture at these powwows.

Every time I go to one, I think about how wonderful it is that we can attend, because there used to be some uncertainty. Lots of people were not even sure they were welcome. Some people approached the community of Pikogan, which is one of the powwows I have attended. Community members said they would be pleased to welcome non-indigenous people. It is a learning opportunity for people. For example, when an eagle feather falls, they take the time to explain what is going to happen and what has to be done. Hundreds of people from my riding who attended the event learned more about indigenous peoples. If this day is not a statutory holiday, it will be hard to get people to go to an event happening after supper, when everyone is busy running around doing all the things they have to do.

We need to take the time to stop and learn about what indigenous peoples have contributed to our society and the challenges they face. We really need a dialogue between what are unfortunately, in some cases, two solitudes. I think we would all benefit from that.

I cannot express how fascinating it is even just to learn about the languages of our indigenous peoples. In Abitibi-Témiscamingue, many waterways, towns, villages, and mountains have Algonquin names. It is really interesting to learn where these names come from, why they were chosen, and what they mean.

I believe that all parliamentarians should support this bill because it is about the reconciliation of indigenous people and the communities living in the same territory. Once again, we need a statutory holiday to be able to truly take advantage of this time and what it can bring us.

The trauma of the past is too great for us to continue living in isolation, apart from one another. I hope that we as parliamentarians are ready to give indigenous people this day so that we can learn about one another. It would be so beneficial to learn about and discover one another. We should never close ourselves off from approaches that facilitate such exchanges.

I strongly recommend that all my colleagues support this bill and read what all the different indigenous organizations had to say about it. I believe that the majority of these organizations support the bill. Several members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission support it. Therefore, I invite all my colleagues to read this excellent bill, to learn about it, and to support it.

Again, I thank my colleague. She has done a remarkable job. I am pleased to sit with her and to constantly have discussions with her.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, what a pleasure it is to rise and speak to a very important issue. It is virtually universally well received how important the National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 is. Community members throughout our great nation, indigenous and non-indigenous, have made a note of that particular day. They recognize just how important it is that we take time to appreciate the many different contributions that indigenous people have made to who we are today as a nation. After listening to other members provide comments with respect to Bill C-369, I want to add a few thoughts.

First and foremost, I would like to recognize the efforts that the Prime Minister has put into this particular issue of indigenous people and the sense of commitment he brings to the table, wanting to work with indigenous people and garner the respect that is warranted in order to move forward, which is quite different from what we have seen with previous prime ministers. We see that attitude and that special relationship being incorporated and encouraged, from the Prime Minister's Office to the cabinet table and members of the Liberal caucus, but also members on all sides of the House. Whether or not we hear strong indications of support for the statutory holiday, all members of the House will recognize how important it is that we have a National Indigenous Peoples Day.

I would like to think that whatever side an MP might fall in on the issue, we recognize that something encouraging comes from the House of Commons today, and it is reflected in many of the speeches I have heard over the years. The whole idea of truth and reconciliation, calls to action, and the recommendations we have all been challenged to live up to is something we should all take seriously. It is one of the reasons I was so pleased to see the division of the department. We now have a minister who is looking solely at the issue of services, and we have an incredible minister of indigenous affairs who will do a fantastic job, continuing to go out and meet with individuals, solicit that very important input, and re-establish that relationship.

In my riding of Winnipeg North, I have had the opportunity to participate in the National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, walking down Selkirk Avenue and on the school grounds of Children of the Earth High School, which is truly a unique school in western Canada, and I would suggest in all of Canada, where there is that special celebration. It is very encouraging that not only is our indigenous community getting engaged, but numerous non-indigenous people take the time to understand and appreciate just how important it is that we value these contributions.

The sponsoring member made reference to some very important issues in addressing the bill. It is important that we recognize the history. I had no idea that this bill was coming up today, but just this past Sunday I was on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature, where there is an individual named Joseph. I do not know his last name. He has a large tent and there are other indigenous people who participate. From what I understand, they are sleeping on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature.

It reminds me of another demonstration that occurred a few years prior to that. Community members beyond the indigenous community were trying to draw attention to the thousand-plus murdered and missing indigenous girls and women and how important it was to have a public inquiry.

In Winnipeg and Manitoba in particular, that issue is starting to resurface in terms of how important it is that the government makes sure we get this right. We had a recent court decision in regard to Tina Fontaine. For those who are not familiar with the Tina Fontaine case, she was a 15-year-old indigenous girl whose body was found in August 2014. She was pulled from the Red River. The sad reality is that there are far too many of those types of actions and discoveries taking place in our country. We need to get a better understanding of that.

The member opposite made reference to the issue of residential schools and the harm that has caused our society. I look at the area that I represent in Winnipeg North and the number of children who are in foster care. We can talk about many other issues where there seems to be a higher percentage of indigenous people, and elected officials need to look at that.

When we think of June 21, it is important to reflect on those types of issues, but it is also important that we celebrate the enormous contributions that indigenous peoples over the years have put in place to enable us to have the homes we have today. Canada as a nation is envied around the world. We would not be where we are today if not for indigenous people.

Getting a better appreciation for what a smudge is, or a powwow, or the many different wonderful contributions that have been made, also need to be highlighted. Earlier this week, I made reference to Folklorama. The Métis community has provided a pavilion over the years. We have had a first nation pavilion. These are popular pavilions. Individuals want to participate so they can become better educated about the culture and heritage of indigenous people. There is so much that is positive.

When I see the Métis tap dance with the violin, and how enthusiastic people are, or the many different types of dances and drums used within our first nations, the heritage of the hoop dance, it is truly amazing. There is a huge interest from the public to get a better understanding of them.

However, it goes far beyond that. I think in terms of indigenous people and the way they treat the environment or mother earth. We have a great deal to learn from that. We have so many other aspects of indigenous culture and heritage. We could be a better society by getting a better understanding of that.

There are many good reasons for why we should be celebrating June 21, and it is a day that I will continue to celebrate. I look forward to the debate on this very important issue in regard to whether it should be made a statutory holiday.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith will have three minutes and then another seven minutes coming to her when the debate continues.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be standing in support of the long overdue action to have a National Indigenous Peoples Day made a statutory holiday. This is consistent with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations. I am very grateful to my colleague, the member of Parliament for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, for bringing this forward.

If I were the Prime Minister, I would have adopted a bill just like this in 2016, on June 21, or in 2017. It is aligned with what the government says its objectives are. If it truly believes that its relationship with indigenous people is of the highest order and the highest precedence, then surely it would create space in our country for people to come together and talk about the legacy of residential schools, the overrepresentation of children in the child welfare system, and the overrepresentation of indigenous people, women in particular, in our jails.

We have a lot of work to do as a country. For a government that says that it wants to do the right thing and is very willing to spend money on all kinds of things, if it were to put its money where its mouths is, the Liberals would vote yes to this very constructive and concrete proposal.

I am honoured to stand in support of Bill C-369, representing Nanaimo—Ladysmith, and, in my community, to stand with the leaders and communities of Snuneymuxw First Nation, Stz’uminus First Nation, and Snaw-Naw-As, or Nanoose First Nation. These are leaders who have taught me a lot. In our community, on June 21, the solstice is increasingly the space being taken to recognize the past wrongs in the relationship with indigenous peoples in our country and the positive future we can have if we do. As my colleague says, “we are stronger when we are together”.

There is great work to do. For the families of Colton Boushie and Tina Fontaine, I am embarrassed and saddened by the failure to find the killers of their children and to witness the racism that has been unleashed in our country as a result of those trials. It tells us more and more that we have work to do as a country. Voting yes to the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River's bill would be the least we could do.

I urge my colleagues on both sides of the House to vote yes for this constructive, positive, forward-looking motion, consistent with the government's promises on indigenous peoples and consistent with its promises to fully implement the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.